Alcoholism and mutual help. From necessity to evidence/Alcoholismo y ayuda mutua. De la necesidad a la evidencia.

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Date: Dec. 2015
From: Adicciones(Vol. 27, Issue 4)
Publisher: Socidrogalcohol
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,798 words

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Alcohol consumption is one of the most important public health risk factors worldwide, with a high proportion of the toxic effects of drinking associated with deterioration, which may have a permanent impact at the level of the central nervous system (Soler et al., 2014).

Despite the passing of time, mutual help or self-help movements (sometimes used synonymously) continue to be a reality in the treatment of addictions, in general, and of alcoholism, in particular.

With historical roots dating back to 19th century temperance movements (Pascual Pastor & Castellano Gómez, 2006), in some cases of a religious or military nature, their ultimate aim is to achieve and obtain complete abstinence from alcohol. The progress of these movements has enabled creating programmes such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) (Pascual Pastor, 2009) based on 12 steps, or Recovered Alcoholics (RA), with a more multidisciplinary approach including recovered alcoholics, professionals (physicians, psychologists, social workers, etc.) and family support in accordance with the so-called Minnesota method (Carreras Alabau, 2011).

Though the terms "self-help" and "mutual help" are used interchangeably, far from being synonyms both are complementary, while the first refers to assuming personal responsibility for taking care of oneself, and the second refers to support given by someone to another.

In 1978, the Mental Health Commission of the U.S. Government proposed self-help as the main pillar of community mental health interventions (Villalba Quesada, 1996). Rather than weakening the model, the passing of time has consolidated it, and regional and national organizations exist across different points worldwide. Even in Europe, one of these groups has established the European Mutual Help Network for Alcohol Related Problems (EMNA), for the purpose of standardizing support, offering help and fostering advocacy.

In Spain, the Confederation of Alcoholic Addicts in Recovery and Family Members (CAARFE), founded in early 2015 on the basis of the experience of the extinct Federation of Recovered Alcoholics of Spain (FARE), has completed the structure with the participation of three pillars: the ill undergoing rehabilitation, family members and professionals. Addictions other than alcohol have also been included, given that types of substance use have changed the profile of the user, presenting a pattern of polydrug use or several addictions, normally of alcohol together with cocaine, cannabis, tobacco or even behavioural addictions, especially gambling.

Now then, our objective is to define these groups or movements, listing their goals and evaluating their efficiency based on scientific evidence.

Self-help Groups (SHGs) are a health model, especially relevant as a "peer" model, comprised of individuals sharing the same pathology or conflict. These arose in response to the lack of professional services, quickly revealed their efficiency and the World Health Organization itself recommended it for certain community health needs (WHO, 1987).

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A510654057